EVANSTON (AP)– Northwestern entered the season known for an offense that centered on senior Drew Crawford.
However, another Wildcats senior, Reggie Hearn, grabbed some attention Sunday with his team-high 14 points in Northwestern’s 80-53 win over Fairleigh Dickinson.
Hearn, who scored 23 points against Mississippi Valley State, wasn’t afraid to shoot whenever he got the ball on Sunday. He beat his Knights defender in almost every possible way on the court. He knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to open the game, giving the Wildcats a quick 6-0 lead, and added a back-door cut for a layup to push Northwestern’s lead to double digits.
“I think if you watch the tape you’d see (Dave) Sobolewski finds in a lot of spots where I can score,” Hearn said. “That helps to have a guy find me in spots that I’m most comfortable. . In the flow of the offense, guys are finding me.”
Hearn also backed down a Knights player in the low post before turning around a netting a jumper. Hearn was 4 for 5 from the field and 4 for 4 at the free-throw line in 19 minutes.
“He’s played a lot so he’s used to a lot of different situations so he’s competitive,” coach Bill Carmody said of Hearn.
Although Hearn sparked the offense in the first half, he had plenty of help from his teammates. Kale Abrahamson scored nine points off the bench, part of a unit that combined for 36 points. Northwestern (3-0) recorded 24 assists on its 33 baskets highlighting the Wildcats’ unselfish play as 11 players notched at least one assist.
“I liked the energy,” Carmody said. “I think they’re all determined to contribute and you can see it’s not a five, six-man rotation. We have some guys there that if a guy’s not kind of feeling it that day, we can get him out for a few minutes.”
Fairleigh Dickinson’s inability to convert in the paint prevented the Knights (0-2) from staying in the game early. They missed six layups in the first half alone, allowing Northwestern to quickly take command in the first meeting between the schools.
For the second time in three games, Northwestern held its opponent to 14 points in the first half, a feat it previously had not accomplished since December 2008. The Wildcats led Sunday by as many as 36 points. Carmody has credited his assistant coaches for the Wildcats’ dominant first-half defensive performances.
“We’ve been spending some time on defense, and we have to continue to do that,” Carmody said.
Eleven different players scored for the Wildcats, who shot 49 percent from the field. Northwestern’s big men dominated Fairleigh Dickinson in the post, outscoring them 36-16 in the paint. Crawford struggled from the field, making just 4 of 13 shots and failing to make a 3-pointer in three attempts. He finished with eight points.
Northwestern didn’t escape Sunday injury free. Forward Nikola Cerina suffered a right ankle injury with 5:49 remaining and had to be helped off the court. Cerina, a transfer from TCU, had provided a spark off the bench in his first action in more than a year and finished with five points and seven rebounds in 10 minutes.
“He was getting really good position, getting really deep so I hope it’s not a severe strain or whatever it is,” Carmody said. “He needs some minutes just so he can get back in the swing of things.”
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